I44 THE GAY GENIUS
specially used the phrases, the gold-embroidered gown, the leafy
boughs bearing fruit and plucking an empty bough.
"I'm ashamed to come home for I missed the spring bloom;
See the generous green of the fruit-laden tree.
If I'm lonely and changed, think kindly of my age;
With your poems, I have passed this year's spring happily.
I am now no more drunk in the morn in jade halls;
But in gold-braid dress celebrate still the bare bough.
From now on every year let us meet without fail,
While I learn the fine art of the spade and the plough."
The song was neither appropriate to Chen ShiajQg nor to the peony,
and on close examination bears no relation to the subject. A fruiti
laden bough is hardly appropriate for the peony. There was no reason
why he should ask Chen Shiang to "think kindly" (lien) of his age.
The pledge to see each other "from now on" was written for parting,
not for one returning to see a colleague; and Su certainly had no idea
of settling on a farm to live as Chen's neighbour. Above all, the refer-
ence to belated courtship of a mother of children must be considered
strange, if it was really meant for Chen Shiang. It is true that in a
Tang poem of this kind, where the middle two pairs are always
couplets with nouns, adjectives., etc,, in one line balanced by the same
class of word in the other,, sometimes such pairs in the middle .are
decorations for the verse, with the first and last couplets bearing the
poetic message; nevertheless, a skilfully constructed Tang poeŁ&
should have complete unity. Rarely would Su Tungpo write such a
badly constructed poem with lines made merely to fill a vacuum. On
the other hand, read as a message composed for his cousin, the poem
has a unified thought and theme. The first line says he was ashamed
to come home because he had missed the spring bloom, or the girl's
youth. The second line makes a clear reference to her having children
now. The third line asks for her sympathy and expresses his feeling
of loneliness. The fourth line expresses the thought that he has had a
happy spring this year, in her company. The third couplet then clearly
expresses his regret at the belated courtship. The fourth couplet
becomes easily intelligible. Su Tungpo at this time wrote a poem ex-i
pressing his desire to settle at Changchow, which was not very far
from the Lius' home. He did carry out his plans to buy a house and
farm at Changchow, and it was here that he died.
I know that admirers of Su Tungpo will take issue with me for thus
suggesting that he had a secret love for his cousin. Whether it casts
a slur on his character or not, however, is a matter of opinion. Su
Tungpo would have been condemned by the neo-Confucianists if it